Thursday, October 05, 2006

Old is Gold...The Bubble story !

If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday. ~Pearl Buck

This is the story of two men - who defined the past ,present and future of advertising. Andrew Pears, with humble begining, and Thomas J. Barratt, a man often referred to as the father of modern advertising.

Though a generation was to separate their interactions with the firm, they evolved a classic threefold formula for success: spotting a gap on the market, developing a high quality product to fill it, and convincing as many people as possible to buy that product by the use of extensive promotion and advertising.

Looking back from what we know today, it may seem simple and obvious ,but way back, then it defined the whole business of persuasion....
Andrew pears recognized the potential of a purer, more gentle soap which would treat more kindly the delicate complexions of the upper class (the upper classes unfavorably associated tanned faces with those of the lower orders who were obliged to toil in outdoors for a living). He set about perfecting a manufacturing process for such a product and after much trial and error hit upon a method - which gave Pears the great novelty novelty value of being transparent. It gave Pears Soap just the image it needed to be clearly identified by the public.
Many sources tell me that Andrew Pears but was a cautious man, and he cared more for the quality of the products that bore his name than the number of people who bought them. Perturbed by inferior imitations, at one stage he even went so far as to sign personally every package he sold. Because of the high price of his products, the market for them was necessarily an exclusive one, and there was little need or point in extensive advertising to try and widen this.

Sensing the impending stagnation of the firm, and recognizing the increasing buying power of the middle classes, Francis Pears, Andrew Pears' grand son , who had stepped into the business by the time ,realized that unless he developed and expanded the family firm he would soon be pushed to one side by more competitive rivals.

Enter Thomas J. Barratt, who had married Francis Pears' eldest daughter Mary . He was far sighted, aggressive, willing to take risks and infinitely resourceful. Within months he had completely revolutionized Pears' distribution system and was turning his hand towards improving the firm's sales performance by means of expensive and highly original publicity schemes. All this was too much even for Francis Pears, who, fearing imminent bankruptcy, withdrew from the firm, taking most of the money and leaving only 4000 pounds as a loan to be discharged equally by his son and Barratt, who were to remain in sole charge of the business.

Barratt has many modern counter parts in the advertising agencies of Madison Avenue, and his methods ( even though critics have labelled him as the man who started all the dubious practices which) were to become widely followed.

He imported a quarter of a million French ten centime pieces (accepted in lieu of a penny in Britain), had the name 'Pears' stamped on every one of them and put the coins into circulation. Since there was no law forbidding the defacing of foreign currency, his scheme earned Pears much valuable publicity until an Act of Parliament was hastily introduced to declare all foreign coinage illegal tender. The offending coins were withdrawn from circulation and melted down. But by the time it had become a point of discussion.

He then went on to persuade prominent skin specialists, doctors and chemists to give glowing testimonials to Pears Soap, who personally guaranteed that Pears Soap possessed ''the properties of an edicient yet mild detergent without any of the objectionable properties of ordinary soaps''. Such endorsements were boldly displayed in magazine and newspaper advertisements, as handbills and on posters. Lillie Langtry, a highly popular actor of the day, gave Barratt a commendation for Pears Soap and for free. You can see one of the testimonial ads here.........>>>>>>>>>>

It is amazing to know how Barratt managed to buy the entire front page of the "New York Herald" on which to display this glowing testimonial. It seemed that no stone was left unturned in Barratt's endless search for good publicity. Infants whose arrival in the world was commemorated in the columns of 'The Times' received a complimentary cake of soap and pictorial advertising leaflets by courtesy of Barratt.

His most audacious publicity scheme, which in the end failed to get off the ground, was the offer of 100,000 to the British Government to buy the back page of a contemporary national census form for Pears' use. Had he succeeded, Barratt would have put his firm's name before 35,000,000 people's eyes.

But the best remembered piece of publicity which Barratt devised was the use of Sir John Everett Millais' painting - the 'Bubbles' originally titled A Child's World, as an advertisement for Pears. The curlyheaded little boy made his first appearance at the Grosvenor Gallery in London in 1886. Barrat got exclusive copyright on the picture, but Millais' permission had still to be obtained before it could be modified (by the addition of a bar of transparent soap) for use as an advertisement. At first Millais, then unquestionably the richest and most popular painter in Britain, was apprehensive about such pointedly commercial exploitation of his work, but mollified by the high quality of the proofs which Barratt brought to his studio, he gradually warmed to the idea.

Barratt spent without any hiccups on the 'Bubbles" campaign, and the number of individual reproductions of the painting ran into millions. By any standards, it was an unqualified success, whatever the critics had to say. Even today, 'Bubbles' remains one of the most instantly recognizable advertising symbols ever devised, and many of the prints, which Pears later made available to the public, were framed and hung in living rooms around the world. For a sample of how Barrat and his team 'owned' the word- art- click on this link..

Barratt thus held two trump cards. In one hand was an immediately recognizable product, Pears Transparent Soap. In the other was the association (in the popular mind at least) between that product and culture, represented by 'Bubbles'.

Barratt died on 28 April 1914, aged 72. He was widely mourned, particularly among the press and advertising fraternity.

To the press he had shown how respectable they can still be ,inspite of printing full page ads and getting more revenue..

To the advertising fraternity he had opened up new horizons. He joined Pears at a time when advertising was limited by and large to small newspaper advertisements and crudely executed handbills and posters, and lived to see it or rather brought it, to a great extent through his own example, to modernity and undreamt sophistication.

He forced the manufacturing world to see the advantages of paying good money for good advertising. Pears was every where,,..much before Such terms like 360 degree communication and Integrated marketing communication evolved,Pears was there every where....

W. E. Gladstone, searching for a metaphor to convey a sense of vast quantity during a debate in the House of Commons, suggested that the choices were "as numerous as the advertisements of Pears Soap, or as autumn leaves in Vallombrosa'. On hoardings and on railway stations, in the press and on buses, the name of Pears Soap was everywhere in Victorian and Edwardian times.....

Children (whether angelic or recalcitrant), animals, flowers and beautiful women are common denominators in the market appeal of advertising, especially when aimed, as Pears Soap mostly was, at female buyers. Pears' slogans -'Matchless for the complexion', 'Good morning! Have you used Pears Soap?' were simple and unchanging, reflecting an era of guilelessness and security in which the good things in life might reasonably be taken for granted - at least by the more fortunate. Only the pictures themselves changed from time to time...and still it is sold...just see this links and you will know what longevity means...

A generation! Modern advertising thinks in terms of weeks, its campaigns changing direction like yachts in a strong breeze.

Pears advertising, to suit its brand image, was tasteful and restrained, needing no recourse to the hyperbolics often encountered elsewhere in the period we are considering. The message was simple: that Pears Soap was safe and healthy and that it made its users beautiful. It savors of prestige advertising, embodying an unquestioned market supremacy; probably there is a good hint of snobbery here as well, for while the middle classes are invariably seen as healthy and self assured, the social inferiors like servants, ragged urchins and in particular black people are frequently seen as figures of fun.

In design terms, many of the examples shown here could be stripped of their typography and considered purely as genre paintings - as some of them indeed originally were. Though the product name and captions are generally in harmony with the pictures, they are typical of this transitional period of advertising design in that lettering and illustration are not considered as a single unified and integrated entity. But their appeal is simple and immediate, requiring no sophisticated interpretation. They provoke an emotional ,rather than intellectual response. Barratt wanted his ads to be 'telling, artistic, picturesque, attractive, pretty, amusing' - and of course commercially successful'.

The greatest contribution of Barratt to advertising probably, is the way he derived consumer oriented marketing from a mere some how selling concept.To quote William Hazlitt "No man is truly great who is great only in his own lifetime. The test of greatness is the page of history. "
The pages in the history of Advertising no doubt, celebrates Pears and the Barratt way of publicity. The rest is history....


For more samples click on the following site...

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